Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Vomiting Mystic

Last night, drunk off my ass, kneeling before the toilet waiting for the opposite of eating to occur, I had a mystical experience.

Being nauseous is awful, but consummating the nausea is, to me, pretty much the worst thing in the world. Even if I fully expect it to make me feel better, I cannot put my finger in my throat. Now, sometimes even those that live a healthy lifestyle will puke, but when I find myself praying to the porcelain god it is usually my own fault. Rabbi Noach Weinberg has said that “pain is the price you pay for pleasure”, and indulgence in drink certainly has its price.

Last night, drunk of my ass, I wondered what Hell must be like.

The way I understand it, the pain our souls may suffer in the hereafter (whatever the correct way of looking at it is) is not “punishment”, per se. Punishment is external to the crimes which warrant it. Fair punishment is proportional to the crime, but that is a quantitative, not a qualitative, judgment. If I cheat in business, it may be fair to lock me up in jail. If I spray graffiti, it may be appropriate to strike my arse with a cane. But there is a logical gap, a human – and therefore somewhat arbitrary – decision lying between the crime and its punishment. But if I put my hand in a fire and I get burned, the question of fair or not doesn’t even come it. The “punishment” and the act are the same.

One of the “punishments” for drinking too much is the tortuous ordeal of nausea. And last night, kneeling before the toilet, the best I could do was look to God, take responsibility for my actions, and accept my “punishment” gracefully. Rising from my slump posture, I kneeled with certitude, with a complete understanding of why I was undergoing this ordeal.

Imagine vomiting for an eternity in the hereafter. Wrongful overindulgence doesn’t only have a physical price, but a spiritual one as well. Just as the pleasure of being drunk involves a certain freedom of the spirit, and just as the vice is a lack of spiritual steadfastness and discipline, the pain that attends it is also spiritual in nature. Sometimes God is merciful enough to let us purge our crimes during this life, and that is what I was counting on last night. What if I don’t get this opportunity in life and I have to purge myself after my earthly tenure? How long would that take? How awful would that be? How I wanted to purge, to puke, to pay.

But I would still not stick my finger in my throat. That would be akin to self-flagellation, that practice of some zealous and misguided religious people of inflicting corporeal punishment on themselves in order to willingly pay God for their sins. Mortification of the flesh. That is not my style at all. If God chooses to punish me, I want to take it gracefully. But I don’t think God wants me to punish myself, only to learn from my errors and from the messages he sends me.

I want to live better, and I know God is helping me. I need to try harder.


kisarita said...

i remember the few times i have got drunk, it was enough to make me swear off all alco for months
but it wasn't the nausea
it was the amnesia that scared me and the shame
I believe its rabbi dessler says that hell is shame. shame without are corporeal defense like forgeting and other minimizing factors

Dave the Philosopher said...

Older tradition says hell is "fire", (although in Norse mythology, Hell is icy). I think Hell is every pain you deserve. I felt that night like the nausea was patently deserved. The breakthrough was that the earthly version of this kind of punishment was the merciful version - without corporeal defenses like getting it over with and healing.

Dave the Philosopher said...

Patently deserved - in quality, in that it is a result of the action through non-arbitrary mediation: I don't know how much vomiting I deserve in quantity. (Probably a lot.)

kisarita said...

there's a certain beauty as well, painful and harsh but beautiful-
in knowing you got exactly what you deserved